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When we perceive an obstacle standing between us and our goals, we often fear that our overall plan is in jeopardy. That is usually not the case with most of the glitches to which we twitch. What may be the issue is that the way we choose to tackle a wrinkle in our plan can end up being a different and often bigger problem than the initial goal we set out to accomplish. More than likely, we should try to focus on the end game rather than the obstacle.

A recent example from my crazy life involves a training exercise with the Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services Dive Team. Our team was practicing a specific search technique in which we explore outward from an anchored point in a circular pattern that slowly increases in radius. The problem was that divers in zero-visibility or “black” water are tethered by rope to a handler on the surface for safety, which travels through a swivel on the anchored point, and that tether line would become twisted around the rope marking that weight.

We tried changing the direction of each rotation to keep the wrap from happening by watching the bubbles. Since bubbles drift in waves and current, that didn’t work. We tried different swivels, setups, and combinations.

Finally, someone said, “So what, again, is the rope to the weight for?”
“It’s so we don’t lose the weight,” said another.
“Well, we aren’t going to lose the diver connected through the swivel on the weight, so we don’t need that rope,” said the first diver.

Our problem was overthinking the means to obtain our goal, which created unnecessary difficulty along the way. We ended up lowering and raising the weight with the same rope used to tether our diver. One less rope, one more problem solved.

As we travel through life, let’s be aware of problem-focused reactions and, instead, find ways to reach our goals more productively and efficiently. The next time you’re faced with a problem or negative situation, make sure you first develop a solution. You don’t have to solve the problem immediately, but you need to be able to articulate and execute the first action steps of your plan to change or overcome it. Often, instead of thinking outside of the box, maybe we should just consider getting rid of the box all together.

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